Tag Archive - Love

Oil of Joy

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor….to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. ~Isaiah 61: 1, 3

It felt like a kick in the stomach. A word whispered across a table.


In a moment life as we knew it scudded to a halt. I saw my daughter’s world shrinking. Doors of opportunity slamming closed. My heart hurt for her. For us all. It seemed tragic. Hopeless.

More than two years have passed since that night, and there have been moments of great anguish. But there has been so much more. And the world I thought I saw closing around my daughter has opened whole new places in her. I have watched her grow in wisdom and patience, in gentleness and generosity. I have watched her make difficult sacrifices for the good of another. This little one she loves so fiercely. There is softness in her. Grace.

And yes, life is not the same. Not for any of us. But we reap our daily bounty of new mercies. And our lives drip with the oil of joy.

This week, the wee one is a year and a half old. She had trouble sleeping yesterday because of some painful teeth coming in, so I held her for most of her nap. Something I have not done in a long time. As I watched the rise and fall of her breathing and felt the soft warmth of her against me, I whispered a doxology over this unsolicited blessing.  A deep gratitude. She provided an amen of sleep drunk smiles and sighs.

If you are sitting in the ashes of a broken dream just now…if yours is the season of despair…I invite you to consider what God might have in store for you. Here’s a little taste of what He has done for us…

*The first photo, as well as the last two were taken by my daughter, the mommy. The mostly unseen participant in the video is uncle Josh whom Kenzie adores. 🙂


Turn the Page…

Some few weeks ago, I gave birth to a darling baby boy. A little towheaded, blue eyed, bundle of joy.

Tomorrow I am carting him off to college.

I do not know how this happened.

Jake was born hungry. Ravenous from the get go. From that moment til this, he has drunk life in great gulps. Seeing deeper than most. Savoring…tastes, sounds, moments, friendships, life.

He is fiercely loyal. It is, perhaps, the hardest part of this growing. This leaving. For him. To be away from the friends who have inscribed their names into the very sinews of his heart. Away from a certain “she” who has the softest, tenderest place. And away from family…we who sometimes rub wrong, who prickle or misunderstand…AND…we who know all the stories, who have shared the houses, the farm, the dogs, the gypsy wanderings…we who have read the books and seen the quirky movies…we who have cried the deep cries and dreamed audacious dreams. We who are the always. And yet…not with. Not now.

I ask myself what I have not said to him. What I wish I had done differently. It is crazy talk, this. I adore the young man he has become. In spite of me, as much as because of me. A work of grace. Very like his Father. So very like. Whatever I might have given him could not be more important than this: He loves well. He is a passionate follower of Christ. He is curious and courageous, generous and good.

We have had a long growing toward this. All of us. This leaving. It has hovered over our heads all this summer. And we have seized and savored moments together. Precious beads to be strung along a rope called memory.

Still, my heart is sore.

I tell him he was supposed to become obnoxious so that I would be glad to see him go. He has not obliged me in this. There will be a palpable absence in our home. A marked reduction in hugs, and long happy sighs over dinner, and stories, and dreams.

We are learning to walk in the new. Our identity as a family is shifting. Again. And once again we must find our place. This is ever the shape of life.

Over the years I have recruited scripture, prayers of the saints, and words of poets in conversation with with my artist, philosopher son. And in conversations about Jake with his Father. On this auspicious threshold, I offer him a few words from that great poet philosopher, Bob Dylan. A blessing. A prayer.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young

I could not find a recording of the classic Dylan rendering. (The one that has left me in tears this summer more times than I care to admit.) But I was happy to find this from one of our shared favorites, the lovely Ms. Norah Jones.

For you, Jake. Godspeed, beloved!!!

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Hushpuppy lives with her daddy in the Bathtub. It’s the only home she has ever known. Theirs is a meager existence, raw, uncertain. But it is also a life of wonder. Of camaraderie and spirit. “The Bathtub has more holidays than the whole rest of the world.” It is life lived close to the earth and her rhythms, and subject to her volatility.

The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the whole universe will get busted.

The six year old poet philosopher stitches together an understanding of the world from all she sees and hears. She presses baby chicks against her ears to listen to their heartbeat. She drinks in the music and fireworks and renegade joy as the community revels in this outside way of life they have chosen. In the wilds of the Delta. Outside the levy.

When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces. I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe…

Hers is an epic story. Of melting polar ice caps, of prehistoric aurochs, of floods that threaten to take everything. Of a quest to find the  mother who was lost to the river. Because her father is sick. The father who taught her to be “a man”. To be strong and take care of herself. Who protected and cared for her in the only way he knew how.

She draws her story on the walls of her house, on a cardboard box, on her bedclothes. Because it matters.

In a million years, when kids go to school, they’re gonna know, once there was a Hushpuppy and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub.

It is a remarkable film. Beautiful. Poignant. Heart-rending at times.Little Quvenzhané Wallis is brilliant as Hushpuppy. Compelling, fiery when she needs to be, completely natural. And so vulnerable, at times, that I wanted to sweep her up in my arms and take her home.

Winner of 4 awards at the Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, it is now playing in limited release. Look for it wherever art films are played in your area. In Nashville, you can find it at the Belcourt.


He asks, “Mom, how do you fill your days now that we are all nearly grown and don’t really need you all the time?”

And I wonder…..

Does it matter? All this scrubbing of floors? All this cooking of meals? Dishes? Laundry? Homework? Preparation for auditions? The chauffeuring to this and that? The listening? To dreams? To fears? The long conversations?

I wonder…

Does it matter? This changing of diapers? This giving of baths? The feeding? The playing with blocks? The reading of books? The explore? Baby birds, ducks on the pond, playgrounds, flowers? If nobody notices, is it still real?

I wonder…

Does it matter? Dreams deferred? Put on hold. For now. For them? If they do not see? Why am i doing this? Really?

On Sunday, we commemorated the unmercenary healers. Medicine men who did not ply their skills for profit. I have struggled with this. I am an unmercenary. But, not by choice. Every day I do invisible deeds. No one says thank you. No one imagines what life would be like without them. I do not give this gift freely. Always. Sometimes I want desperately to be noticed. I am vain. I would like someone to say, “Thank you for washing my clothes. Thank you for supper. For a clean home.” It rarely happens.

And sometimes I think it would be better to be out in the world doing something that would last more than a few minutes. Something that might bring a salary. Something dignified and honorable.

Instead, I get up every day and do invisible deeds to launch my beloveds upon the world. And I wonder, does it matter?

Do I matter?

Do I?


Curious. Expectant. Surprised.

The evening is soft and sultry. Unexpectedly hot for May. We sit on calico covered hay bales in the long twilight shadows, while the two of them make promises. Love and cherish. Til death. I have never seen her more radiant.

Every detail says something about who they are. Individually. And as one. Bow ties and suspenders. Antique colored glasses spilling blossoms. Lanterns, paper pinwheels, and signature cocktails served up in mason jars.

He leads her to the dance floor. His touch tender, her eyes filled with love. And their deep joy becomes the music, becomes the dance, becomes the night sky and stars and fireflies and air. I can’t take my eyes off them.

They have been dancing into one another for months. A bit at a time. Here is the extraordinary thing, as they have moved toward oneness, I have seen her becoming more and more herself. As though he is liberating something inside her, and she is liberating him. A sweet, selfless love that is curious and generous, that discovers and makes brave.

I have thought of it often since that night.

 The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own. ~Benjamin Disraeli

He is an internationally renowned jazz pianist who has played with the likes of Art Blakey and Wynton and Branford Marsalis. There is a photo on the wall of him with Dave Brubeck. He talks about these things humbly. Like gift.

Then he begins to tell us about some of his students. Students who have played with Miles Davis and Sting. Students who have become headliners in their own right. He talks about the joy of helping someone find in himself something he didn’t know was there. And I am very glad to be entrusting my son to him for the next four years.

It is gift…

…this ability to see inside someone and draw out what is there. But it is gift that can be cultivated. By listening deeply. By loving generously, without agenda. By wanting the good of the other as much as I want the good of myself. By being willing to surrender preconceived notions and allow the other to grow beyond anything I could have imagined for him.

I want to love like this.

I want to live among others like this.




Don’t you?

*The enchanting couple above are Shawn and Madeline Lemon. It is a delight to know them. Positively beautiful, inside and out. Photograph by Brandon Chesbro.

**Jake’s instructor is to be the inimitable Donald Brown. I include the following by way of introduction. Treat yourself to a summer evening in Vienna, and jazz on a Bösendorfer. (That is perhaps only ironic to piano snobs. ;)) The piano solo is about 5 minutes in. Don’t miss it.

We said we would start with dogs…

We said we would start with dogs. If the dogs didn’t die, we would have some babies. We lost the boy dog while I was pregnant, and the girl just after Kelsey was born. Despite this inauspicious start, in twenty years we have managed to not kill any of the children. Yet. 🙂

Beloved, I can’t think of anyone with whom I would rather share the beautiful, terrifying, sacred experience of parenthood, than you. Here are just a few reasons why I am grateful you are the father of my children…

  1. You are sane. Sometimes I resent it…when I want beat the living daylights out of someone who has broken the heart of one of our babies…when I can’t sleep for fretting… But, in the end, your quiet confidence brings far more healing than my fury.
  2. You are funny. Sometimes on purpose. Sometimes not. 😉  Either way, our family has laughed a lot because of you. Thank you for that.
  3. You are generous. You provide our children with everything they need. And, you give them your time, something even more precious. You help them understand the joy of ownership by coming alongside them as they work to achieve their goals. And, by your example, you teach them to give to others with open hands.
  4. You are tender. I have seen your heart break for your babies. I sometimes envy the way you instinctively know how to be with them in those moments. You impart peace, without saying a word.
  5. You are Godly. Not preachy. Not flashy. But always, every day, honorable. A man of integrity. A man of faith.
  6. You are dauntless. Whether wilderness backpacking, snowboarding, driving on the wrong side of the road in Ireland, or letting little girls put your hair in tiny ponytails, nothing intimidates you. You have taught our children to be brave. With your words. But mostly, by your example.
  7. You are creative. Do you remember how you used to make up stories for the kids when they were little? They would give you 3 things and you would weave them into the story. A bowl of ice cream is canvas to you. And I save all your beautiful letters. I’ll bet they do too.
  8. You like to play. Our children have been to some crazy places and done some crazy things. You help make that happen. You are always up for a game, a hike, a culinary experiment, wrestling on the floor, dressing up for Halloween, etc…
  9. You know stuff. Lots of stuff. About business, about electronics, about tools and toilets and how to make doors not squeak…and about who to call for everything else.
  10. You love without limits. The children have all tested this (as have I). It is the most important thing. When we try to grasp a God who loves extravagantly, without bounds, we have had a worthy example. In you.

Happy Father’s Day, my darling! Thank you for being you.
I love you. Always.

Seemingly Unnecessary…

She covered her walls with newspaper to keep out the cold. Her quilt patterns were cut from her children’s arithmetic papers. I still wear her pink apron, made of flour sacking. Much repaired with fine, meticulous stitches.

She was a Depression era bride. In Appalachia. Of necessity, she became a master in the art of stretch. Of making things go further than one thought they might.

Into this austere life of thrift, she wove strands of beauty. Seemingly unnecessary. But, I imagine, very necessary.

We all grew up sleeping under her quilts. Her children. Her grandchildren. Even her great-grandchildren. I have thought of her often while working on a  quilt for my grandbaby. Of the love she poured into every stitch. Of the joy she must have felt as she watched something so lovely grow under her hands.

I have dragged her peonies with me to multiple houses over the years. She loved peonies. Every year she would haul wheelbarrows of manure from the cowshed to nourish those beauties. It is a fitting metaphor, perhaps. Coaxing something exquisite out of something lowly. Like weaving gold from straw…

I have pillow cases that she embroidered. I try to think when she had the time. She drew her water from a well. Raised, dried, and canned everything they ate. And cooked it on a woodburning stove. She did not have indoor plumbing til long after I was born. What was it that compelled her to carve a space in her life, in the lives of her family, for something pretty?

It is this that stitches my heart to hers. This necessity of loveliness. This imprint of the Creator.

My grandmother has been absent the earth for just over 18 years. But in a week or so, her peonies will open again. Their stems will nod from the weight of the luscious blossoms. Tonight, someone she loves will sleep under a quilt she stitched some winters back. And it’s very likely that today, some one of her progeny will weave a little extra beauty into a humble task. Seemingly unnecessary. But, I imagine, very necessary.


You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~Psalm 139:13-14

She plowed into her cake with both hands. To the delight of all onlookers. Some of them invited guests. Family. Friends. Some of them total strangers who just could not stop watching her.

It is how she does everything. With abandon. All in. Her world is a wondrous place. So much to discover. To taste and handle. To see and smell. To climb up and slide down. I am learning a great deal from her.

This has been a year fraught with discovery. Of fraternizing with ducks. Of handling wiggly, squiggly earthworms. Of burying toes in the dirt. Of blossoms and birds. Of butterflies and balls.

It has been about moving slowly and looking long. It has been prayer and play, sunshine and storms. It has been music, and dancing, and making friends.

We have been stretched. All of us. We are learning to see the world with new eyes. Again. We are remembering how to play. We laugh. A lot. There has been more snuggling than I can recount. I have read Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Five Little Ducks, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom approximately a million times. Each. And every day, I watch a little life unfurling before my eyes. Like a blossom. And it is the most magical thing I have ever been privileged to witness. And I keep wondering how I got so lucky.

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!! I love you to the moon and back. God grant you many, many years!!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~Jeremiah 29:11

Dear Joshua,

We almost missed you, you know. For a while, dad and I thought maybe two kids were enough. We even started selling some of the baby gear. But then this feeling started growing in my heart. That someone was missing. Not everyone was here, yet. The decision was never about having a third child. It was about having you. The moment I held you in my arms, I knew our family was complete.

Just think of all we would have missed, if we had missed you, my love…..


All of life is one great explore for you. When we travel, it takes you only a few minutes to scope out the hotel room and find out where all the drawers are and what is in them. When we hike, you run on ahead. Or shinny up rocks and trees so you can take in the view. You take things apart. You experiment. You play. And our world is bigger because of you.


I sometimes wish you could have had one of those mommies who make every occasion grand. That would be so fun for you. Instead, you are the one who transforms our porch for Halloween. You are the one who insists we put out all the nativity sets, and Santas, and angels…. You are the one who wraps our staircase in lights and garland. I thought I was crazy about Christmas til I met you. You have me beat. 🙂 Thank you for making life a party. For knowing that memories are a lacing together of one extraordinary moment after another.


The most modest of meals becomes a feast when you put your hand to it. From the candles and flowers to the artful plating, you understand that a meal should delight ALL the senses. You bring this same creativity to your acting, your singing and your writing. I love watching you when an idea is forming itself in your head. I love how words tumble over one another as it bubbles out of you. Most recently, I have seen this creativity in your songwriting. Deep, poignant lyrics that pierce my heart. I look forward to watching you cultivate this gift in years to come. Thank you for a life sprinkled–yay verily, doused–with beauty.


I hardly think anyone can miss how much you have grown this year. Six or seven inches of vertical gain are difficult to overlook. And a man face now houses the eyes that used to belong to my little boy. But I think the most significant growth has been less obvious. Because it has happened inside.

Time after time this year you have put yourself out there, stepping into new situations–new school, new sport, new friendships, etc…. You acknowledge your fear, then plunge right into it. I can not tell you how proud I am of you. When you record your original songs and put them out there for your friends (and total strangers, for that matter) to see, I wonder what happened to that little boy with the practiced “shy look” who did not want to be noticed. When you dream audacious dreams, the mom in me wants to protect you and bid you set your sights a little more humbly. But you are teaching me with your courage. You make me want to be as brave as you.


Your kindness, your generosity, your intuition, your uninhibited displays of affection; these are gifts to everyone who knows you. They have been gift to me. I have loved watching you with your little niece this year. She adores you. I’m not surprised. 😉 I know you would give her the world if you could. Instead, you give her stuffed animals, dolls, clothes, books, toys… More importantly, you give her yourself. Your time. Your undivided attention. Your joy. This she loves about you. This I love about you. I know so much more about what it means to give myself away because of you. Thank you for that.

Dear son of mine, when I looked into your precious face for the first time fifteen years ago, I could not imagine how much richer, how much bigger, how much more fun my world was about to become. Thank you for being you. And thank you for letting me be your mommy.

Happy Birthday, Joshua!!

I love you!

God grant you many, many years!

*Photo at the top of the post: Josh with his cousins Anna and Ethan. (Thanks, Uncle Monty!)
**Photo at the bottom: Josh with his beautiful (inside and out) friends Gatlin and Jessie (Thank you, ladies!)

Postcards from Paradise…

The words will come.

I know it.

But, just now, they are flying around, frantically, in and out of my head…a confusion of thoughts and impressions, remembrances and moments, ecstasies and and quiet reveries, that refuse to be contained or given shape and I don’t even know where to start or which ones go together or if you even want to hear them or if I’ve already talked about it enough and does it really matter in the scheme of things or should I just move on and only bore my family with the stories and anecdotes or would it be fun for you to have a glimpse into our week in Eden and our frolic amongst some of God’s most brilliant handiwork….

So….until I can get a handle on the words…and stop writing ridiculous run-on sentences…(Who do I think I am? Hemingway?)…I thought I would share with you a few favorite photographs. I took around 700 over the 9 days we were away. On my phone. That doesn’t include the ones on the camera or video camera. I have not even uploaded those yet. Nor does it account for the several experiences, like zip-lining or white-water rafting, where we took no photos at all.

But Costa Rica is one of the most visually stunning places I have ever visited. It seams a fitting place to begin.

Blue Morpho Butterfly on Bougainvillaea

Photograph taken at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, though we saw an abundance of these magnificent creatures in the wild. Bougainvillaea was also plentiful, covering hillsides with abandon. Glorious extravagance!

Green Crowned Brilliant Hummingbird

Hand feeding these beauties was one of the highlights of our trip. To study them up close. To feel the power of their wings as they soared past our faces. Remarkable!! (Blow this one up and have a closer look. The detail of her feathers is astonishing.)

Violet Sabrewing

I confess, this little fellow stole my heart. I am crazy mad about purple. And the peculiar hue of his feathers is positively captivating. (Note how my phone portrayed the fury of his wings.)


This graceful beauty pushed its way out of the old lava flow at the base of Arenal Volcano. The stark contrast of elegance against raw, aridity is compelling. A visual lesson in beauty from ashes.

Lavender Lilies Against Arenal

I had to scale a bit of an escarpment to get to these. It was worth it. The delicate lavender of the blossoms against the deep blue cone of Arenal wounded me with their loveliness.

Harbor at Quepos

Restricted color palette. A quiet oasis amidst unrelenting exuberance. Every time I look at it, my heart flutters. The stillness. How it washes over me. Softly. Can’t explain…

Water and Sky, Framed

I am embarrassed to say how many photographs I have of precisely this shot. I was infatuated. I couldn’t stop watching the play of the spray against the indigo sky as set off by their rugged frame.

Study in Blue

The architecture of the gnarled trunk against the assortment of blues delights me.

Pretty in Purple

I’m a sucker for purple. Perhaps I mentioned that. I suppose that’s why I spotted these, hidden underneath a big leafy bush. Like they were an accident or something. Such intricacy of form, such deliberate detail, in blossoms no more than 3 inches across! SomeONE takes great joy in making things lovely. Even those that will often go unseen…

*In case you are wondering, I do not know why the vertical photos are not centered. They made that determination themselves and, despite my best efforts, will not relent. It bothers me more than I can, or should, say. Especially in a post given to the beautiful. Alas, I have no technical skills. So imagine a perfectly centered and pleasingly arranged post. Will ya? 🙂

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